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Using Copyrighted Materials in Instruction: Permissions and Licensing

Covers copyright in general, exceptions, permissions, licensing, ereserves, course management systems

No Exceptions

You need permission if your use does not fall under any of the listed exceptions. You can sometimes seek free permission; other cases require a license fee. 


When seeking free permission, first try to identify the copyright holder. This will probably be either the publisher or the work, or the author. Then, send a request where you:

  • Ask your recipient to affirm they are the copyright holder or indicate who does own the rights;
  • Describe the specific work, including specifically the portions (pages, timer count) that you will use;
  • Describe the use specifically, and how it will be accessed, the number of uses, dates it will be used (e.g., what semester);
  • Provide a means for assent (signature line, request for email granting permission);
  • Indicate that you will include attribution when you make use of the work, and ask if they have a preference for how you attribute;
  • Include any details that make granting permission attractive;
  • Make it easy (use email or include a self-addressed, stamped envelope).


To license the use of a work, the easiest method is to work through a collective rights agency. Alternatively, you can contact the copyright holder directly, usually the publisher.